Nickey's Story

Written by: Nickey Cochran.

In high school, I considered myself to have what I thought was a math brain. What that meant was that I got really good grades and I always understood what my teacher was saying. I was not sure that I would want to pursue a career in mathematics, but I did know it was my favorite subject.

I began college as undeclared and in my first semester I took Math Explorations. I had a very different experience here than I did in my high school classes. In high school, the teacher taught us the lesson, and then we received work to practice this math that was already figured out for us. In Math Explorations, we worked through difficult problems, and many times, we did not even know what the goal was. We were just supposed to keep thinking and working through things until we had even the smallest of inclinations that we had figured something out. The number of times I heard “deductive reasoning” is amazing. I did not always understand what was going on either, which was a change from how I performed in high school.

While this may have made me second guess my strengths in math at certain points, I had to learn how important the process of struggle was in order to really understand.

Another important thing that I walked away from this class with was that there really is not a limit to math. In high school I learned the subjects of Algebra, Geometry, and Calculus, so what else is there really? Math Explorations showed me how much there was to learn in the world of mathematics.

I had been contemplating the idea of pursuing a career as a teacher. Seeing the difference in how math is taught in high school and how it was taught to me in Math Explorations pushed me into thinking about how I could help kids in high school learn and appreciate math. I was convinced that this was the direction for me, so during my next semester I declared a Mathematics major with a certification in Secondary Education.

Now that I’m a math major I can take all sorts of classes like Real Analysis and Number Theory and Differential Equations. What are these classes even about? It’s a good thing I’m a math major, so I can find out!